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Republic of the Philippines

SUPREME COURT
Manila
SECOND DIVISION
A.M. No. AC 4762
June 28, 2004
LINDA VDA. DE ESPINO, complainant,
vs.
ATTY. PEPITO C. PRESQUITO, respondent.
RESOLUTION
PUNO, J.:
Statement of the Case:
On June 9, 1997, Linda Vda. de Espino wrote a letter-complaint 1 with the then
Court Administrator Alfredo Benipayo, charging respondent Atty. Pepito C. Presquito,
a member of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), Misamis Oriental Chapter,
for "having employed fraud, trickery and dishonest means in refusing to honor and
pay [her] late husband Virgilio Espino, when he was still alive, the sum
of P763,060.00." According to complainant, respondents unlawful refusal and
dilatory tactics partly triggered the death of her husband, who died "disillusioned
and embittered."2 The letter-complaint and affidavit also alleged that
notwithstanding the numerous oral demands by Mr. Espino and complainant (after
the death of Mr. Espino), respondent still refused to pay the amount represented by
the eight checks which had all been dishonored. Complainant surmised that Atty.
Presquitos refusal to pay may be due to his reliance on the influence of his fatherin-law, a former Executive Judge of the RTC (Cagayan de Oro), and of his uncle, an
RTC judge (Cagayan de Oro).
Facts:
In September 1995, respondent was introduced to complainants late
husband, Mr. Virgilio M. Espino. Mr. Espino regarding the sale of his piece of land
with an area of 11,057.59 Esq. situated in Misamis Oriental. The discussion between
Mr. Espino and the respondent resulted in the sale of the property to respondent.
Under the terms of the agreement between Mr. Espino and respondent, the
purchase price of the land was P1, 437,410.00, payable on a staggered basis and by
installments. Pursuant to the terms of payment in the agreement, respondent
issued eight post-dated checks, totaling P736,060.00. Meanwhile, the eight postdated checks issued by respondent were all dishonored. Mr. Espino made repeated
demands for payment from respondent but the latter refused.
His widow,
complainant, then tried to collect from respondent the value of the eight checks.
When complainants numerous pleas remained unheeded, she filed the complaint in
June 1997.

IBPs Recommendation:

In the IBP-CBD report dated November 12, 2002, 12 Investigating


Commissioner Caesar R. Dulay found that "the facts and credible evidence made
available in this case indubitably establish respondents failure to live up to the
demands of the Lawyers Code of Professional Responsibility and the Canons of
Professional Ethics." For having failed to act with candor and fairness toward
complainant, Commissioner Dulay recommended that respondent be suspended
from the practice of law for six (6) months, and ordered to immediately account
with complainant regarding the sale of the piece of land which had been subdivided
in the name of respondent and his business partner. On June 21, 2003, the Board of
Governors of the IBP passed a Resolution adopting/approving the Report and
Recommendation of Commissioner Dulay, finding that "respondents lack of fairness
and candor and honesty [was] in violation of Rule 1.01 of the Code of Professional
Responsibility."
Issue:
Whether or not respondents refusal payment of the eight dishonored checks
failed to act with candor and fairness towards the complainant?
Ruling:
Yes. Having no legal defense to refuse payment of the eight dishonored
checks, respondents indifference to complainants entreaties for payment was
conduct unbecoming of a member of the bar and an officer of the court. Respondent
violated the Code of Professional Responsibility by his unlawful, dishonest and
deceitful conduct towards complainant and her late husband, first by allowing the
eight (8) checks he issued to bounce, then by ignoring the repeated demands for
payment until complainant was forced to file this complaint, and finally by
deliberately delaying the disposition of this case with dilatory tactics. Considering
that the property of complainant and her late husband is already in respondent and
Mrs. Ares name, the injustice of respondents different maneuvers to evade
payment of the eight checks - due and unpaid since 1996 - becomes more manifest.
It should be stressed that respondent issued eight (8) worthless checks,
seemingly without regard to its deleterious effects to public interest and public
order. We have already declared, most recently in Lao v. Medel, that the issuance of
worthless checks constitutes gross misconduct, and puts the erring lawyers moral

character in serious doubt, though it is not related to his professional duties as a


member of the bar. He not only sets himself liable for a serious criminal offense
under B.P. Blg. 22, but also transgresses the Code of Professional Responsibility,
specifically the mandate of Canon 1 to obey the laws of the land and promote the
respect for law.
It behooves respondent to remember that a lawyer may be suspended or
disbarred for any misconduct, even if it pertains to his private activities, as
long as it shows him to be wanting in moral character, honesty, probity or good
demeanor.
Given the foregoing, and in line with jurisprudence involving lawyers who
issued worthless checks, we find respondents reprehensible conduct warrants
suspension from the practice of law for one (1) year.